Declaring a Palestinian State?
This weekend, Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saab Erekat announced Palestinians will seek recognition as an independent statefrom the U.N. Security Council. However, it is unlikely independence will be declared in the short-term. According to Erekat, “we are going to have to prepare for this well and to hold political and diplomatic talks […] There is no point in rushing just so that we collide with an American veto.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned against relying on an American veto. Echoing similar warnings from Prime Minister Netanyahu, Lieberman promised “any one-sided Palestinian move will be met with steps of our own,” such as officially annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Haaretz reports that the Labor party has threatened to withdraw from the ruling coalition if Netanyahu were to annex the settlements. The article also relays that Hamas has voiced opposition to any proposed declaration of independence, contending the occupation must first be ended, by force if necessary. A Hamas spokesman also stated that, if some sort of declaration is necessary, “why not declare a Palestinian state from the sea [Mediterranean] to the river [of Jordan]?” Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad explained that a declaration is largely a formality compared to the importance of building state institutions.
The head of Israel’s Meretz party, Yossi Sarid, has come out in support (h/t TPM Cafe) of a unilateral declaration, suggesting that “Abbas will become the Palestinian Ben-Gurion.” Juan Cole also strongly supports such a declaration, afraid that “the likelihood is that a Palestinian state will become impossibly very shortly simply because the West Bank looks like Swiss cheese.” Given that the occupation spurs extremism, “if the Palestinians could get the UNO to declare a Palestinian state and pressure Israel over it, they would actually be doing the Israelis a huge favor.” Cole also questions “why Netanyahu thinks a formal annexation would be meaningful” given that Israel already exercises de facto control over those areas.
The growing support for a unilateral declaration stems largely from the perception that the peace process has failed. Hussein Ibish in The Daily Star explains “it is almost impossible to adequately convey the present degree of Palestinian despair” that has led President Abbasand other Palestinian Authority leaders to threaten their resignations. Also in The Daily Star, Rami Khouri criticizes the resignation threats: “the spectacle is as disheartening as it is old and empty, and it is an insult to the dignity and needs of the Palestinian people.” He calls for a new leadership who will “speak for all Palestinians in a single voice, in pursuit of realistic political goals.”